An innovative Internet tool developed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was recently recognized with a special achievement award from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
The award was given to FWP for creating and launching its Crucial Areas Planning System, which provides free access to an array of maps and data from hundreds of sources. It’s available for use by energy companies, county planners, and others seeking to develop land and natural resources while aiming to conserve the state’s important fish and wildlife habitats.
“FWP is honored to be recognized by our colleagues for developing CAPS,” said Dave Risley, FWP’s Fish and Wildlife Division administrator. “The project was led by our Strategic Planning and Data Services Bureau, but hundreds of staff members throughout the agency helped to create this tool.”
Risley said CAPS is designed to allow businesses, political leaders, and the public to see and evaluate the effect development could have on important fish and wildlife areas in Montana.
“The big difference with CAPS is that it’s designed to help planners discover up front how to avoid expensive costs and mitigation issues,” Risley said. “If CAPS is used early in the process, it will lead to cash smart, time smart, and conservation smart decisions by accurately assessing risks to the fish and wildlife we all enjoy.”
In 2008, FWP took the lead in conducting a statewide assessment that evaluated the fish, wildlife and recreational resources of Montana and ultimately identified crucial fish and wildlife areas, including fish and wildlife corridors. The result, in part, is CAPS.
Risley said CAPS is not a substitute for onsite evaluations of fish, wildlife, and recreational resources. “We still urge everyone to consult with the local FWP biologist,” he said. “CAPS is a smart place to start, but the next step to understand the development challenges and opportunities in a particular area is to visit with the local fish and wildlife biologists and managers.”
WAFWA, founded in 1922, is an organization of 19 western states and six Canadian provinces, whose members are charged with the protection and management of state and provincial fish and wildlife resources. FWP Director Joe Maurier was appointed WAFWA president at the association’s recent meeting in Alaska.